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Aus, India to hold talks on counter-terrorism, cyber security

Monday, 26 October 2015 00:00 Written by

Melbourne, Oct 26 (PTI) Australia and India will hold talks on counter-terrorism, cyber security and international crime cooperation in New Delhi during the ongoing official visit of Trade Minister and Attorney General.

The discussions will be held during the official visit of Australian Attorney-General George Brandis who is in India along with Trade Minister Andrew Robb.

Brandis is on official visit to India from October 25 to 29. He will be meeting key government counterparts besides participating in the Australia-India Leadership Dialogue.

"I will use the visit to engage on matters of national security and to encourage greater security and legal cooperation between Australia and India," Brandis said yesterday.

"India is a key international partner for Australia on counter-terrorism, cyber security and international crime cooperation," he said, adding that he will be discussing these issues with Indian side where the two sides will share experiences and responses to the evolving threats.

"I will provide an update on Australia's legislative reforms and deradicalisation programs and will be interested in hearing from my Indian colleagues about their response to this growing problem," Brandis said.

"It is important that we work together to mitigate the threat of foreign fighters and to counter violent extremism.

Options for improving bilateral cooperation on countering violent extremism will be explored under the India-Australia Security Framework which was agreed to in 2014," he added.

Brandis is also participating in the inaugural Australia- India Leadership Dialogue, a forum which will provide a platform for leaders from a range of sectors, including government, corporate and academia to come together to further develop the Australia-India bilateral relationship and to enhance the links between the two countries.

"My visit will also support efforts to enhance legal services access for Australian lawyers in India, which is an important area of discussion in the Australia-India Comprehensive Economic Cooperation negotiations," he said.

Amnesty warns human rights abuses ‘unabated’ before Bahrain Grand Prix

Saturday, 18 April 2015 00:00 Written by

A major report from Amnesty International released to coincide with this weekend’s Formula One grand prix has warned that human rights abuses in Bahrain continue “unabated” despite repeated assurances from the authorities that the situation is improving.

The Bahrain Grand Prix has become a prism through which human rights groups have sought to focus attention on the situation in the country after protests in the capital by pro-democracy campaigners in 2011 caused the race to be cancelled.

The Amnesty report details dozens of cases of detainees being beaten, deprived of sleep and adequate food, burned with cigarettes, sexually assaulted, subjected to electric shocks and burned with an iron. One was raped by having a plastic pipe inserted into his anus.

It said the report showed torture, arbitrary detentions and excessive use of force against peaceful activists and government critics remained widespread inBahrain.

The organisation said the report showed the Bahraini authorities continued to abuse human rights despite repeatedly insisting they had exceeded the provisions set out in a report produced by the UN-backed Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry in 2011.

Earlier this year the UK’s foreign secretary Philip Hammond praised Bahrain as a country “travelling in the right direction” and other western countries have praised Bahrain’s progress.

But Amnesty concludes: “More than three years after Bahrain agreed at the highest level to accept and implement all the BICI recommendations, the steps introduced so far – while positive on a number of aspects – have been piecemeal and have had little impact in practice.”

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Partly due to the unapologetic attitude of the Formula One chief, Bernie Ecclestone, who has tilted the calendar away from Europe and towards Asia and the Middle East, the sport has found itself at the centre of the debate over whether human rights should be a factor in staging major sporting events.

Two years ago Ecclestone said he thought Bahrain was “stupid” to host the grand prix because it gave demonstrators a platform to protest. He said it was not for him to judge how a county ran its own affairs. “We’re not here, or we don’t go anywhere, to judge how a country is run,” he said. “Human rights are that the people that live in a country abide by the laws of that country.”

Dissidents and exiled campaigners have warned that hosting the race increases instances of human rights abuses because authorities clamp down further on freedom of speech and assembly.

Amnesty’s report alleges the authorities have conducted a “chilling” crackdown on dissent, with activists and government critics rounded up and jailed, including some detained for posting comments on Twitter or – in one case – for reading a poem at a religious festival. Public demonstrations in Manama, the capital, have been banned for nearly two years.

Said Boumedouha, Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa deputy director, said: “As the world’s eyes fall on Bahrain during the grand prix this weekend, few will realise the international image the authorities have attempted to project of the country as a progressive reformist state committed to human rights masks a far more sinister truth.

“Four years on from the uprising, repression is widespread and rampant abuses by the security forces continue. The notion that Bahrain respects freedom of expression is pure fiction. Where is the freedom in a country where peaceful activists, dissidents and opposition leaders are repeatedly rounded up and arbitrarily arrested simply for tweeting their opinions, and reading a poem can get you thrown in jail?”

The Bahraini authorities have pointed to the economic benefits of hosting the grand prix, arguing it supports the employment of 4,000 locals and brings almost $300m into the economy.

This week, an organisation called Americans for Democracy on Human Rights in Bahrain said it had mediated an agreement with Formula One to implement a policy that analyses the human rights impact its presence might have on a host country. How that works in practice remains to be seen.

It said: “As a result of that process, Formula One Group has committed to taking a number of further steps to strengthen its processes in relation to human rights in accordance with the standards provided for by the guidelines. Formula One also takes this opportunity to reaffirm its commitment to respect internationally recognised human rights”.

During the mediation process Nabeel Rajab, a member of ADHRB’s advisory board and the president of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, was arrested.

The organisation said: “This arrest amounts to a signal that the government will broach no criticism or dissent before or during the race, which has previously attracted significant anti-government protest.”

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China ready to sign friendship treaties with all neighbours:Xi

Saturday, 28 March 2015 00:00 Written by

Beijing, Mar 28 (PTI) Chinese President Xi Jinping today said that China stands ready to sign treaties of friendship and cooperation with all its neighbours to provide strong support for the development of bilateral relations as well as prosperity and stability in the region.

Malaysia to release MH370 probe report in March

Thursday, 29 January 2015 00:00 Written by

Kuala Lumpur, Jan 28 (INBN) Malaysia will release an interim report on the investigation into the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 on March 7, a day before the first anniversary of the mysterious disappearance of the plane along with 239 people, including five Indians, on board.

Deputy Transport Minister Abdul Aziz Kaprawi said the country's Department of Civil Aviation (DCA) will release the report which will focus on the investigation only.

India Blocks China’s Attempt to Take Over South Asian Group

Saturday, 03 January 2015 00:00 Written by

In late November, New Delhi blocked Beijing’s attempt to gain membership in the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation. Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bhutan, Maldives, and Afghanistan are the seven other full members of what some call a club of poor nations.

 
 
 
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At the group’s 18th summit, held in the Nepalese capital of Kathmandu, Beijing allies Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka pushed for China’s upgrading from observer status to full membership. India sought to defeat the initiative because SAARC, as the organization is known, operates on consensus and New Delhi feared that China would block its initiatives in the future.

The last thing the group needs is more obstructionism. By all accounts, the Kathmandu meeting, whose motto was “Deeper Integration for Peace and Prosperity,” was not a success. That is not especially surprising because SAARC is itself considered a failure, with little to show since it was formed in 1985. “SAARC represents the EU approach to South Asia,” writes M. A. Niazi, an Indian journalist, but unfortunately South Asia is not Europe, where leaders are intent on integrating their economies and societies.

Yet, despite everything, the South Asian grouping is becoming an important platform for India, now intent on countering China’s attempts to dominate South Asia.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi signaled that SAARC would play a big role in his foreign policy from the very beginning. Creating a great deal of optimism at the time, he invited the leaders of the seven other nations—including Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif—to his inauguration in late May. Since then, not much has been accomplished in furthering SAARC’s objectives.

For one thing, Pakistan is unsure about integration within the group, especially since India, considered its primary adversary, is SAARC’s dominate member. Ultimately, Islamabad’s reluctance may not matter. Modi appears increasingly impatient with the Pakistanis. He and Sharif slighted each other in Kathmandu and then Modi indicated India was going to go ahead with his initiatives, with SAARC or without it. “The bonds will grow,” the Indian prime minister told the seven other leaders at the Kathmandu summit. “Through SAARC or outside it. Among us all or some of us.”

Yet Pakistani obstinance is not the only barrier to progress. Local Indian politics during Modi’s short tenure has hindered India playing its natural role as leader of the region. In 2014, he let opposition in the state of West Bengal halt links with Bangladesh, and let resistance in Tamil Nadu slow outreach to Sri Lanka.

Modi may think of India as the core of South Asia and the center of SAARC, but China is moving into the region fast, marginalizing New Delhi. Take Nepal, the host of the recent summit. At the end of December, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi arrived in Kathmandu for a three-day visit to deliver help to Nepal, especially assistance in generating electricity.  Beijing will increase official annual aid more than five-fold, from $24 million to $128 million. Moreover, China will spend additional money to build a police academy for Nepal.

Across the region, India sees more and more evidence of Chinese involvement. Beijing’s officials first build relationships with small states on India’s periphery with aid and trade and then move on to establishing military ties. “China’s strategy toward South Asia is premised on encircling India and confining her within the geographical coordinates of the region,” writes Harsh Pant of King’s College London. “This strategy of using proxies started off with Pakistan and has gradually evolved to include other states in the region, including Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and Nepal.” If India is now surrounded, it is largely New Delhi’s fault. As Pant notes, “India’s protectionist tendencies have allowed China to don the mantle of regional economic leader.”

China’s penetration of South Asia and the rest of the continent is so complete that Akhilesh Pillalamarri, who writes at the Diplomatbelieves New Delhi has no real choice but to sign onto “Asia’s emerging ‘Chinese Order.’” Beijing, he says, is rearranging trade routes through the continent so that they run through China. “There is no alternative for India but to become a part of this order or remain unintegrated, since it is too late for India to set up its own Asian order.”

China is certainly using its trade prowess, but pronouncements that the game is over for New Delhi are premature. Businessweek believes India’s growth rate could overtake China’s in 2016, in what the magazine calls “a world-turned-upside-down moment.” In reality, that point has probably passed, as Chinese reports of economic performance look exaggerated.

In any event, India can, through a combination of fast growth and progressive trade policies, win back its region from Beijing. China can afford to buy the loyalty of South Asian leaders for only a few more years if its economy is as bad as it now appears.

“The truth is, India comes into its own on the world stage when it carries the neighborhood with it,” correctly notes the Hindu, an English-language daily in the Indian city of Chennai, in an editorial at the end of November. That is the crucial test for the Modi government.

CIA chief defends agency, but admits''abhorrent'' abuses

Friday, 12 December 2014 00:00 Written by

Washington, Dec 12 (PTI) The CIA chief has defended the techniques used by the interrogators on terror suspects post 9/11 attacks but admitted that in limited number of cases the methods had not been authorized and were "abhorrent".

"There was information obtained, subsequent to the application of enhanced interrogation techniques (EITs), from detainees that was useful in the (Osama) bin Laden operation," CIA Director John Brennan said in a rare media briefing after a Senate report into Central Intelligence Agency's treatment of terrorism suspects triggered global revulsion.

Brennan said the internal CIA reviews indicate that the detention and interrogation program produced useful intelligence that helped the US thwart attack plans, capture terrorists, and save lives.

He, however, said it was difficult to ascertain that the use of EITs had yielded useful intelligence.

"We have not concluded that it was the use of EITs within that program that allowed us to obtain useful information from detainees subjected to them. The cause and effect relationship between the use of EITs and useful information subsequently provided by the detainee is, in my view, unknowable," he said.

"Irrespective of the role EITs might play in a detainee's provision of useful information, I believe effective, non- coercive methods are available to elicit such information," he further said.

Brennan said the CIA's detention and interrogation programmes came amid fear of another wave of assaults from al-Qaeda after the 9/11 attacks as the intelligence agency grappled with a task it was "not prepared" for.

"In many respects, the program was uncharted territory for the CIA and we were not prepared. We had little experience housing detainees and precious few of our officers were trained interrogators. But the President authorized the effort six days after 9/11 and it was our job to carry it out," he said.

"The CIA was unprepared to conduct a detention and interrogation program. Our officers inadequately developed and monitored its initial activities. The agency failed to establish quickly the operational guidelines needed to govern the entire effort," Brennan said.

"In a limited number of cases, agency officers used interrogation techniques that had not been authorized, were abhorrent, and rightly should be repudiated by all. We fell short when it came to holding some officers accountable for their mistakes," he said.

"They went outside of the bounds and terms of their actions that - as part of that interrogation process. And they were harsh. In some instances, I considered them abhorrent, and I will leave to others how they might want to label those activities," he added. .

Dr. Anthony Raju , Advocate , called for Asia Bibi immediate release

Friday, 07 November 2014 00:00 Written by

A Pakistani court on Thursday upheld the death sentence of a Christian woman convicted of blasphemy four years ago, as her lawyers vowed to appeal.
Asia Bibi, a mother of five, has been on death row since November 2010 after she was found guilty of making derogatory remarks about the Prophet Mohammed during an argument with a Muslim woman.

“A two-judge bench of the Lahore High Court dismissed the appeal of Asia Bibi but we will file an appeal in the Supreme Court of Pakistan,” said her lawyer Shakir Chaudhry.

All India Council of Human Rights, Liberties and Social Justice (AICHLS)and Asian Human Rights Council (AHURC), described the decision as a “grave injustice”, and called for her immediate release, said Dr. Anthony Raju , Advocate Supreme Court of India and Chairman AICHLS.

It should be criticized globally and should raise voice against this "injustice" ,said Dr. Anthony Raju , Advocate Supreme Court of India and Chairman AICHLS.

“Asia Bibi should never have been convicted in the first place—still less sentenced to death—and the fact that she could pay with her life for an argument is sickening,” said David Griffiths, Amnesty International’s Deputy Asia-Pacific Director, in a statement sent to AFP.

“There were serious concerns about the fairness of Asia Bibi’s trial, and her mental and physical health has reportedly deteriorated badly during the years she has spent in almost total isolation on death row”.

Blasphemy is an extremely sensitive issue in Pakistan where 97 percent of the population is Muslim and unproven claims regularly lead to mob violence.

Two high-profile politicians — then Punjab governor Salmaan Taseer and minorities minister Shahbaz Bhatti — were murdered in 2011 after calling for reforms to the blasphemy law and describing Bibi’s trial as flawed.

The blasphemy allegations against Bibi date back to June 2009.

She was working in a field when she was asked to fetch water. Muslim women laborers objected, saying that as a non-Muslim she was unfit to touch the water bowl.

A few days later the women went to a local cleric and put forward the blasphemy allegations.

Over a dozen religious clerics — including Qari Saleem who brought forward the initial complaint against Bibi — were present at the court Thursday.

“We will soon distribute sweets among our Muslim brothers for today’s verdict, it’s a victory of Islam,” Saleem told AFP outside the courtroom as the clerics congratulated each other and chanted religious slogans.

Pakistan’s tough blasphemy laws have attracted criticism from rights groups, who say they are frequently misused to settle personal scores.

Lawyers who defend people accused of blasphemy—and judges seen as lenient—also risk being accused of the crime themselves and regularly face intimidation.

Last month a prison guard at the notorious Adiala jail in Rawalpindi shot and wounded a 70-year-old Scottish man with a history of mental illness who is on death row for blasphemy.

The jail also houses Mumtaz Qadri, the former bodyguard of governor Taseer who gunned him down in an Islamabad market place. He was given a death sentence but heralded by some as a hero for killing Taseer.

Blasphemy carries the death penalty, though Pakistan has had a de facto moratorium on civilian hangings since 2008. Only one person has been executed since then, a soldier convicted by a court martial and hanged in November 2012.

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